Variety is a key reason to pick the Seychelles for a holiday in the Indian Ocean sunshine. Nine hundred miles off the coast of East Africa, the archipelago’s 115 islands are sprinkled over an area almost as large as Mongolia and include granite peaks, flat pancakes of coral and huge atolls that look like fabulous brooches from the air. Spellbinding beaches and terrific snorkelling and diving are paired with fascinating flora and wildlife that have evoked comparisons with the Garden of Eden. Around 100,000 Seychellois reside in this peaceful nation where there is no malaria, little crime and a spirited creole culture. Development has been kept in check with many islands declared nature reserves and there are exceptional beach resorts that can be booked through the Seychelles specialist Turquoise Holidays. All come with idyllic sands, fine restaurants and pampering spas that promise an unforgettable getaway.
Explore the Hidden Gems of the Seychelles Islands
25th January 2024
Spellbinding beaches, hideaway islands, a balmy climate, and activities from bike rides and diving to dreamy spa treatments make the Seychelles a standout getaway.
Island-hopping in the sun
Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles and the international gateway. Over 80% of the population resides here and it’s the best place for cultural exploration. Start in the capital, Victoria, with a look at the bountiful Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market and rainbow-hued Sri Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple. The National Museum of History offers a beginner’s guide to Seychellois life while the leafy Botanical Gardens date from 1901. Inland lies the formidable Morne Seychellois National Park, which protects a fifth of the island. Its peaks rise to almost 3,000ft and there are rewarding trails through the mighty sang-dragon trees. Call into Le Jardin du Roi spice garden to learn about local flavours and go snorkelling in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park.
Just a 15-minute flight to the north east, smaller Praslin is the Seychelles in a coconut shell — a perfect mix of idyllic beaches, luxuriant forest and top-class hotels, all of which you can drive around in half a day. The star draw here is the World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai nature reserve, home to the extraordinary coco de mer palm. Once believed to grow in the depths of the sea, this tree can live for over 200 years and boasts the largest seed in the plant kingdom, shaped like a pair of voluptuous buttocks. There are plenty more marvels in this prehistoric forest, such as the thief palm (so named because one was stolen from Kew Gardens in 1857) and the black parrot, which is found nowhere else on the planet.
For another fun hop, take the 15-minute ferry ride east to La Digue. A little under eight miles long, this island is virtually vehicle-free and best explored by jumping on a bike and heading south to Anse Source d’Argent (inevitably nicknamed Asda), where the beach is straight out of a swimwear catalogue. Many travellers visit this laid-back isle on a day trip, but if you fancy lingering book into Le Domaine de L’Orangeraie, which has luxurious villas set beside a tranquil beach.
After exploring the main islands, many travellers add on a few days on a small, private one. Two miles north east of La Digue, Félicité is one of the closest and can be reached by a short boat ride from Praslin or a 20-minute helicopter flight from Mahé.
The island has three stunning white sand beaches punctuated by huge granite boulders, while the interior is hilly and forested. A third of it is given over to Six Senses Zil Pasyon, an all-villa eco-luxury resort where there are walking trails, watersports and a standout Six Senses spa. Five treatment suites are built into the rocks and offer blissful therapies such as the 150-minute Floating Journey, which draws on ylang ylang, bourbon geranium and African incense.
For barefoot luxury on a Crusoe-worthy coral isle only a mile long, head to isolated Denis Private Island, which is a 30-minute flight north of Mahé. Here 23 beachside cottages are set amid the louchely leaning palms with no phone signal, wi-fi or TV. It’s the perfect place to kick back with your partner as you relish the warm breezes, turquoise waters and barbecue dinners served under the stars.
Denis, with its giant tortoises, rare Seychelles paradise flycatcher and green turtles, is a place where you can get close to nature. The turtles nest year-round; from May to September is the prime time for viewing. There is also excellent diving and game fishing, with a drop-off that plunges 5,000 feet just 15 minutes away.
Further south lie two more remote escapes, starting with Desroches in the Amirante Islands, a 35-minute flight from Mahé. This slender strip of coral, three miles long and dotted with coconut palms, offers secluded beaches and rewarding surfing, fishing and diving (November to April is the best time to visit). The 71-room Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island appeals to both couples and families as it is ideal for cycling, kayaking and snorkelling and there are complimentary clubs for children and teens.
To truly get away from it all, touch down on Alphonse Island, which is an hour’s flight from Mahé, and one of two atolls in the far-flung Alphonse group.
It’s a revered spot for saltwater fly-fishing with the chance to catch and release bonefish, permit and giant trevally, and many people also visit for its pristine natural environment. Giant Aldabra tortoises roam free and you can spot frigatebirds and the red-footed booby, and take boat trips to see whales and dolphins. Guests stay in A-frame beach bungalows, with dinners of freshly caught tuna and wahoo washed down with coconut rum a holiday highlight.
How do you decide which islands to visit? And in what order?
“Go for 10 or more nights,” advises James Bell, managing director of the luxury tour operator and Indian Ocean specialist Turquoise Holidays. “As you’ve travelled so far, and there’s plenty to see, you need that much time. The Seychelles isn’t a destination to rush around and its superb beaches, natural splendour and top-class resorts are worth savouring.”
All Turquoise Holidays itineraries are tailor made and a popular combination is five nights on Mahé or Praslin, then another five on a private island.
“A truly dream trip would cover all three,” Bell suggests, “perhaps with a day trip to La Digue thrown in.”
Founded in 2002 by three passionate travellers, the family-owned company meticuously checks out every hotel and resort it works with and has an in-depth knowledege of the Seychelles. Expert advice is available for all types of travellers, including honeymooners, families, multi-generational parties and those with particular interests, such as anglers, divers and birdwatchers.
On the larger islands, which have an enticing range of accommodation, deciding where to stay is a delicious decision. Lisa Mason, Turquoise Holidays’ Indian Ocean product manager, flags up Mango House on Mahé, once the home of renowned Italian fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri. On Praslin she recommends the open-plan Constance Lemuria, which has three beaches and plenty to do, including tennis, mountain biking and the only golf course in the archipelago. “Or if you like to keep things intimate and affordable,” she says, “Hotel L’Archipel has 32 creole-style rooms with expansive verandas.”
The turquoise holiday Seychelles essentials
Don't leave without...
A swim on a world-famous beach such as Anse Lazio, Anse Georgette or Anse Kerlan, which are all on Praslin.
Trying dishes such as bourzwa (red snapper) stuffed with ginger and garlic, and kari koko zourit — an octopus curry prepared with coconut milk.
Sampling Takamaka rum — connoisseurs can visit the distillery on Mahé.
Looking inside your passport — the arrival stamp is shaped like a coco de mer seed.
Top tips for the Seychelles
● There are no direct flights to the Seychelles from the UK. The best connections are via Dubai, Doha and Istanbul with a flying time of around 13 hours. Time difference is GMT +4.
● The Seychelles pairs well with South Africa for a fabulous twin-centre holiday. Enjoy the thrills of a safari then grab some some beach downtime in the islands. Flying time from Johannesburg is five hours.
● The islands are a year-round holiday destination, with the driest months from June to August. Rainfall is common but in general the climate is delightfully sunny with humidity tempered by ocean breezes. Average temperatures hover around 26-28C with April-May and October-November good for snorkelling and diving.
● Visas are not required but visitors must apply for a Travel Authorisation online prior to arrival (seychelles.govtas.com).
● Depending on the distance involved, travel between the islands can be by ferry, speedboat, helicopter and flights with Air Seychelles. Be aware that the sea can sometimes get choppy.
● Pack your best swimwear and sunglasses. A hat, sunblock and insect repellent, and reef shoes are a good idea, along with walking boots for exploring inland.
For expert advice and a bespoke holiday itinerary to the Seychelles contact The Turquoise Holiday Company (020 7147 7087, turquoiseholidays.co.uk) which has offices in London and Beaconsfield.
To find out more about the islands, head to seychelles.com.